The Seven Core Competencies of Partnering

Published: Jan 24, 2019
Modified: Mar 24, 2020

By Sue Dyer

For almost two decades partnering has been a goal for many teams. Whether for a specific project, a strategic initiative, or an alliance, partnering is a great way to expand the pie for everyone involved. When partnering fails, many times it is because the team leaders and members didn’t know how to make it succeed. If the players embrace the following seven core competencies their partnership will have a much greater chance of being successful.

#1: Leadership:  Be a Trusted Leader
This competency refers to the ability to effectively lead a team to the successful completion of its objectives.

By definition a leader is someone who has followers. Following is 100% voluntary. Team members decide to follow the leader because they trust that the leader will help the team succeed. The more trusted you are as the leader of your team, the better your will be able to share a compelling vision for success. Because they trust you, you people will work to help you fulfill that vision. Fear and trust can not coexist. As the leader, you must drive out even small pockets of fear.

#2: Negotiation:  Be a Nonadversarial Negotiator
This competency refers to the capacity to negotiate fair, justifiable agreements.

A team leader and his or her team are interdependent. Because of this you need the cooperation of the others on your team in order to succeed. The old adversarial way of negotiating, where you argue your points and there is an ultimate winner and loser, just cannot work when you are interdependent. You either win together or lose together. A non-adversarial negotiator seeks fair, justifiable solutions. These are the underpinnings of building trust within your team.

#3: Conflict Management:  Use Conflicts for Constructive Change
This competency refers to the skill of transforming conflict into a productive force for change.

Most of us consider conflict as being “bad.” Many people will go to great lengths to avoid all conflicts. In reality, there is a lot of energy in conflicts as they often help us see when and why something is not working. Once a conflict has been acknowledged, team members can work together toward a resolution.

#4: Communication:  Foster a Forum for Communication
This competency refers to the ability to create an atmosphere that allows team members to communicate openly so they can reach an understanding.

When team members trust each other to tell the truth, no matter what, a dialogue can take place. This is where you are willing to listen to your teammates with an empathetic ear, really trying to understand what they are telling you, without judgment. Then you relate your point of view. Seeing the same issue from different perspectives allows real communication to take place.

#5: Facilitation:  Trust in the Collective Wisdom of Your Team
This competency refers to the capability to facilitate identification of the core problem/issue and to allow the team to co-create the solution.

Every team faces challenges. It is how the team comes together to resolve problems that determines its ultimate success or failure. The team leader should facilitate a dialogue between team members, assuring the right people are in the right place at the right time. When a team is focused on, and perhaps enjoying, the challenges it faces, it begins to tap into the collective wisdom of the team. From there it begins to cocreate great ideas and solutions.

#6: Interpersonal Relations:  Create Synergies
This competency refers to the facility to understand yourself and others so that you can build a strong, cohesive team focused on expanding the pie.

People are motivated by their own self interests. So occasionally some team members actually work against the goals of the team. This causes entropy, which can be depicted mathematically as 1 1 = -2. Entropy means that some of the resources you are putting into your project are not moving you toward success. It is critical to understand your team members’ motivations and to get everyone focused on and moving toward common goals. This allows for synergies to be developed, depicted mathematically as 1 1 = 3.

#7: Organization:  Be Structured for Success
This competency refers to the ability to create processes, procedures, and policies that bring the right people together, allowing them to unleash their talents for the good of the overall effort.

Policies, procedures, roles, and responsibilities all must be in place, and they must be understood and congruent with the goals of your team. Misaligned policies often frustrate team members into complacency. Poorly run meetings waste time and energy. Lack of a clearly charted course prevents the team from understand what is of highest priority. The inability to set priorities and act on them wastes time and resources. Team members need structure to achieve their objectives.

The seven core competencies for partnering will help you build up your “partnering muscles” so that you’ll be able to consistently make partnering work for your team. An additional strategy is to seek out training, coaches, and mentors who can help. Also, assess where you stand for each of the seven competencies. Perhaps you can mentor others in the areas in which are you the strongest and seek out a mentor in your areas that need further development. You’ll find that your efforts will bring a great return on investment.

About the Author(s)

Sue Dyer is president of OrgMetrics, a consulting firm specializing in nonadversarial approaches to preventing and resolving disputes. She is author of the award-winning book Partner Your Project and is the first woman in the U.S. to head a major collective bargaining unit for the construction industry. For more information, visit or call 925-449-8300.